Senate confirms Trump court pick despite missing two 'blue slips'

Senate Republicans confirmed a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee on Tuesday even though neither home-state senator returned a "blue slip" for the judge nominated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE
 
Senators voted 53-46 on Eric Miller's nomination, making him the 31st appeals judge confirmed since Trump took office in January 2017. 
 
Miller is the first circuit court nominee to be confirmed without a blue slip from either home-state senator, with neither Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns Overnight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare MORE (D-Wash.) nor Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security Zuckerberg woos Washington critics during visit Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers to discuss 'future internet regulation' MORE (D-Wash.) returning the sheet of paper that indicates if they support him. 
 
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Murray warned minutes ahead of the vote that Miller's nomination was putting the Senate on a "very dangerous path." 
 
"Republican leaders are now barreling towards a confirmation vote on a 9th Circuit nominee, a flash point that, if it succeeds, will mark a massive departure from the long-standing bipartisan process that has been in place for generations," Murray said from the Senate floor.
 
Cantwell added that the "confirmation process has, I believe, gone against long-standing Senate traditions, norms and the role of advise and consent to his nomination."   
 
It's the latest escalation of a years-long fight over the blue slip, with Democrats accusing Republicans of trying to defang the minority by moving nominations without support from home-state senators. 

The blue-slip rule — a precedent upheld by Senate tradition — has historically allowed a home-state senator to stop a lower-court nominee by refusing to return the blue slip to the Judiciary Committee.

How strictly the precedent is upheld is decided by the committee chairman, and enforcement has varied depending on who wields the gavel.

But it's emerged as a flashpoint during the Trump administration as several Democratic senators have refused to return their paperwork on circuit court nominees from their home states, setting up a round of fights between Democrats and the White House.

Several circuit nominees were confirmed last year despite not receiving a blue slip from one of the home-state senators. 
 
Republicans also brought 9th Circuit nominee Ryan Bounds to the floor despite not receiving a blue slip from either Oregon Democratic Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Walmart to stop selling e-cigarettes | Senators press FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately | House panel tees up e-cig hearing for next week Bipartisan group of senators urges FDA to pull most e-cigarettes immediately Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes MORE or Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Microsoft to provide free updates for voting systems running Windows 7 through 2020 Interior watchdog investigating political appointees' review of FOIA requests MORE, but his nomination was withdrawn after Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition To boost minority serving institutions, bipartisan Future Act needs immediate action Cruz to oppose Trump appeals court pick MORE (R-S.C.) indicated that he wouldn't support him. 
 
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted out Miller's nomination along party lines earlier this month. 
 
Democrats were infuriated when Republicans held a hearing for Miller during the October recess last year when most lawmakers were out of town.
 
GOP aides argued that Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions Trump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel, had agreed to the dates, but Democrats say they did not agree to move forward if the Senate was not in session.
 
 
 
"He will make decisions on our nation's most important issues and will have the power to change Americans' lives," said Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoMarijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis Female Democratic Senate candidates in Colorado ask DSCC to rescind Hickenlooper endorsement Democrats press Trump Treasury picks on donor disclosure guidelines MORE (D-Nev.). "Yet this Republican leadership believes a five-minute hearing is enough for a circuit court nominee who doesn't have the support of his own home-state senators."
 
Republicans have dismissed Democratic complaints, noting that Democrats, led by then-Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBarr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks Harry Reid warns Trump 'can be reelected' Homeland Security Republican accuses Navy of withholding UFO info MORE (D-Nev.), got rid of the 60-vote filibuster for lower court nominations in 2013, ensuring an appeals judge could be confirmed by a simple majority.
 
 
"All in all, his classmates, many of whom have also been his colleagues over the years, say that Mr. Miller is, 'extraordinarily well-qualified' to serve as a federal judge," he said. "I would urge each of my colleagues to join me in voting for this fine nominee soon." 
 
Grassley also sent a letter to Murray and Cantwell late last year saying they had not returned their blue slips but also not given any "substantive reasons for your opposition."
 
"My preliminary conclusion is that the White House staff attempted to engage in meaningful consultation with you but that their engagement was not reciprocated," Grassley wrote in the letter. "I believe the White House engaged in meaningful consultation with you regarding the Ninth Circuit vacancy in Washington."